Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Mertes knows what it’s like to have your life suddenly altered. On Feb. 7, 2007, her life’s path was forever changed. Stationed at MacDill Air Force Base at the time, she was struck by a drunk driver who was traveling over 100 miles per hour on I-75. He had a blood alcohol level of .221, nearly three times the legal limit. During the crash, “I made a futile attempt to regain control of my vehicle as my car slid sideways down the interstate, with cars in the remaining lanes veering around my car to avoid hitting me. As my life hung in the balance, I made a bargain with God. I promised God that if I were blessed to live, I’d spend the rest of my life helping others. This promise was the genesis of my nonprofit Fulfill Your Destiny.”
Mertes suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the accident. But she is more than a survivor. She has turned tragedy into triumph, helping others who have had their world shattered pick up the pieces.
Through Fulfill Your Destiny, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, Lt. Col. Mertes financially aids people in the Tampa Bay community whose careers have been altered by injury or unforeseen circumstances. Special consideration is given to those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.
“Imagine if you could no longer do what you are trained and experienced to do today. What if everything you have worked for educationally and professionally was gone in an instant? This is my story. Following my injury and treatment, it became apparent I could no longer perform the work required of a military officer with a Top Secret clearance.”